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Uncle Apichatpong Who Ruminates on the Past, Present and Future

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul discusses the film that won him the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d’Or in 2010. (13 min., 55 sec.) (Photo: Suzanna Finley)

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul discusses the film that won him the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d’Or in 2010. (13 min., 55 sec.)
(Photo: Suzanna Finley)

Often referred to as a "mysterious" man who makes "mysterious" films, partly as a playful reference to the title of his feature debut Mysterious Object At Noon (2000), Apichatpong has made films that compel audiences to look at films differently. To watch an Apichatpong film, Hui pointed out, viewers must abandon their basic understanding of narrative structure, logic, what is real/unreal, what is past/present, and when one is human/animal/spirit — but she also questioned if audiences too readily neglect the rich cultural and historical references that permeate the director's work.

The filmmaker responded that it is not understanding that he seeks: "A film has its own life. It's like a person. It has a certain charisma and a certain wavelength. You either have the same wavelength or not. For me, my duty is to express my wavelength… It's my memory, but at the same time, I hope it’s open enough to trigger your own experiences."

In a moment of contemplation, Apichatpong, whose films are infused with Buddhist philosophy, expressed doubts about filmmaking, once his ultimate purpose in life.

"With my interest in Buddhism, I always have conflicts… Filmmaking is about control. Many times you have to be very mean to be able to get the results," explained the filmmaker. For the director who is particularly interested in memories, he expressed conflicts between "remembering the past through filmmaking" and "living the present."

Looking into the future, the director contemplated a life in avocado farming as an alternative. But true to his core, Apichatpong quickly and enthusiastically turned to the subject of a new film idea which pays tribute to old science fiction films and involves a snow-capped landscape, a spaceship, and aged female scientists looking at the past.

Spaceship or jungle, past or future, film or avocado — time will tell where this young experimental wizard will take his next adventure.

Asia Society's Blissfully Thai film series is presented in association with Cineaste. Major support for this film series is provided by the Thai-US Partnership Program of Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thai Artists Alliance, and the New York State Council on the Arts.